Chevening Alumnus Carlos Alvarado becomes 48th president of Costa Rica
Today Chevening Alumnus Carlos Alvarado Quesada (2008) becomes the 48th president of Costa Rica, after winning approximately 61% of votes in the recent election.
At only 38 years old, Alvarado's election comes just ten years after being awarded a Chevening Scholarship to pursue an MSc in Development Studies at the University of Sussex’s Institute of Development Studies (IDS). IDS is known for producing global leaders and is currently ranked first in the world for development studies.
Shortly after his landslide victory, University of Sussex Deputy Vice-Chancellor Saul Becker congratulated Alvarado, noting prominent fellow alumni.
'Many congratulations to Carlos Alvarado Quesada, who joins a growing list of world leaders to have studied at Sussex, including former Presidents of Botswana and South Africa. As an IDS graduate and former Chevening Scholar, he is part of a diverse community of leaders, influencers and decision-makers from all over the world.'
Alvarado also thanked Chevening for the opportunity to study in the UK, and asserted the need for wider access to education in Costa Rica.
'My thanks to Chevening for the opportunity that it gave me, and for all that I was able to grow because of it. As a country, we must pursue the path of education and more opportunities to study for everyone.'
A deep commitment
Born in San José to Alejandro and Adelia, Alvarado grew up in the Pavas district alongside his two siblings Federico and Irene. Before turning to politics, he worked as a journalist after studying journalism and political science at the University of Costa Rica. A man of many talents, he is also a prize-winning author, having published three novels: The Story of Cornelius Brown (2006), The Possessions (2011), and Season in Brighton (2015). He is even an amateur musician, having once played in a progressive rock band.
In 2002, Alvarado joined the Citizens' Action Party and has been an active member since. At 34, he became the youngest minister in the administration, responsible for human development and social inclusion. This role saw him working with impoverished populations as he worked to help develop the Multidimensional Poverty Index (IPM) as well as the national strategy for poverty reduction.
In April 2016, Alvarado took up the role of Minister of Labor and Social Security before deciding to run for president. Unsurprisingly, his commitment to inclusion and social security was evident throughout his campaign. Under the slogan 'Elijo el futuro' (I choose the future) Alvarado ran on progressive policies against conservative evangelical preacher Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, including support for same-sex marriage after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that same-sex marriage should be recognised by all signatories, including Costa Rica. Furthermore, his vice-presidential candidate, Epsy Campbell will become Latin America’s first woman of African descent to hold the position.
A proud moment
In San José, British Ambassador to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Ross Denny said that Alvarado’s election is a proud moment for the embassy.
'This is a very proud moment for us, as we witness a Chevening Scholar assume the highest leadership role in Costa Rica, a country that has been a longstanding partner and friend to the UK,' said British Ambassador Ross Denny.
'It is gratifying, through the UK government’s Chevening Scholarship programme, to be able to inspire generations of future leaders and global influencers, like President Carlos Alvarado, to leave their mark on society and to empower others around them to do the same.'
In August 2017, British Ambassador Ross Denny hosted a farewell event for the eight Costa Rican Chevening Scholars studying in the UK during the 2018/2019 academic year
Still, despite defying the polls, which predicted a much closer race, the road ahead will not be without challenges for Alvarado. The election sparked debate around hot-button issues, causing deep polarisation within the country. Furthermore, Costa Rica currently faces high fiscal deficit, high levels of violence, and recently faced the largest corruption scandal in the country’s history. However, the British embassy in San José will continue to play an active role in improving political and trade links between the two countries, supporting the development of commercial relations and encouraging low-carbon growth.
A long tradition
As one of the few global leaders to be elected before their fortieth birthday, Alvarado is in good company alongside French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Young Chevening Alumni such as Bogolo Kenewendo, Botswana's youngest minister and fellow IDS graduate, have also recently made headlines. However, Chevening has a long tradition of producing global leaders, including former leaders of Bolivia, Colombia, and South Korea.
Carlos Alvarado with his team
In response to his victory, Alvarado said: 'What unites us is much greater than what divides us,' a sentiment that is shared by Chevening as we prepare to welcome our 50,000th alumnus into the global community. His election is both a testament to Chevening's commitment to developing future leaders and a source of inspiration for Cheveners everywhere.